Evidence That It Works
In one study, eighteen-month old children saw a series of photos that had different household objects in the foreground; for some of these children, in the background were two small dolls facing each other—a subtle reminder of connection. But for other children, in the background were two stacks of blocks, a single doll standing alone, or two dolls turned away from each other. After viewing the photos, all of the children had the opportunity to help an adult in need. The children who had seen the subtle reminder of connection were three times more likely to help the adult.
In another study, adult participants between 18-34 years of age who read words associated with human connectedness were more interested in volunteering for a charity and were more likely to donate money to a charity.
Why Does It Matter?
Research suggests that humans have a strong propensity for kindness and generosity, and that kindness improves the health and happiness of the giver, not only of the receiver. Indeed, kindness has been found to benefit students by increasing their well-being and peer acceptance, both of which lead to greater academic achievement, a stronger sense of belonging, and better relationships with peers and teachers.
But we don’t always act on our altruistic instincts.
Fortunately, studies have identified ways to elicit people’s deeply rooted propensities for kindness. One of the most effective is to evoke a sense of connectedness among people. Research suggests that even subtle reminders of connection, operating below the conscious level, can lead to concrete, measurable increases in altruistic behavior. And encouraging students to be kind to each other will have a ripple effect that can spread throughout the school, improving school relationships among all stakeholders, leading to a more positive school climate.